Category Archives: Politics – Texas

Appeals Court Rules Against Judicial Expansion of Mail-In Voting


By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected Texas Democrats’ bid to allow all state residents to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s law extending that right only to those over 65 was not unconstitutional age discrimination.

A split three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s preliminary ruling that had required the state to expand mail-in voting to all eligible voters.

The Texas case is just one of dozens of court challenges across the country over whether to expand voting rights in light of the pandemic. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has asserted without evidence that voting by mail will result in fraud, although many states have used the practice for decades with no major problems.

Texas law allows voters over age 65, as well as those with certain disabilities, who are ill, absent from their home counties or confined to jail, to vote by mail. In a separate case, the state’s high court ruled in May that the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus was not in itself a valid reason to allow mail-in ballots.

The 5th Circuit’s majority said the state’s law did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on age discrimination because it merely conferred an extra benefit on older residents, rather than limiting the right to vote for younger Texans.

Uncollected Strip Club Fees Defund Rape Crisis Centers

More negative consequences of the unconstitutional stripping of civil rights.

The Texas Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services Program pays for an array of services designed to help crime victims, including rape crisis centers and training for specialized nurse examiners.

But it is funded mainly by a $5-per-patron fee charged to adult businesses, such as strip clubs — shuttered this spring as the government tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The uncollected “pole taxes” have drained $5.35 million from the program.

All the stories, all the time

Inmates who work for Texas Correctional Industries typically make garments and other items whose sale contributes revenue to the Department of Criminal Justice. But this spring, in response to a shortage of personal protective equipment, the inmates switched to manufacturing masks, costing the corrections department $3 million in profits.

The Office of Risk Management, the state’s self-insurance agency, says that in recent months it has processed double to triple the typical number of workers’ compensation claims. As of mid-August, the state’s risk managers had received 5,130 claims “potentially related to COVID-19,” spokeswoman Janice McCoy said. Covering the claims could top $6 million.

One Disease. Two States. Different Choices. Different Results.

We are getting to the point when we can compare the effects of different policy reactions to Coronavirus. Let’s take a look, for example, at Texas versus Wisconsin. I still have a lot of family and friends in Texas, so I see a lot of their news too.

The two states responded differently. Here in Wisconsin, we locked down the state and continue to stay locked down. We are ordered to stay at home and any “non-essential” businesses are closed. It is statewide. In Texas, they took a more localized approach. Governor Abbott said, “I am governor of 254 counties in the state of Texas,” he said. “What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this time for more than two hundred counties that have zero cases of COVID-19.” While the State of Texas imposed some more stringent restrictions on people coming to the state, like mandatory quarantine for people coming into the state from the hot spot areas of New York and Louisiana, the decision to shut down, shelter in place, etc. and the specifics of those orders were left to the individual counties. The result was that counties imposed restrictions as the spread impact their areas and local leaders are accountable to their constituents for the impact of those decisions.

So we have two different policy choices. Wisconsin had a “one size fits all” response that shut down virtually everything. Texas has a more nuanced, localized response that had a few statewide actions, but primarily left it to local policy makers. What are the results?

As of today, Wisconsin has 182 dead out of a population of 5.882 million. That’s a death rate of 0.003094185%.

Texas has 364 dead out of a population of 29 million. That’s a death rate of 0.001255172% .

Despite the fact that Texas has an international border, much more international and national travel, a much larger population of black folks (black folks are being disproportionately impacted by this disease), and shares a border with a hot spot state (Louisiana), Texas has about 40% of the death rate of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Abbott is already talking about reopening the Texan economy:

“We will focus on restoring lives while protecting livelihoods. We can and we must do this, we can do both. Expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work,” Abbott said. “One things about Texans is they so much enjoy working and I know they want to get back into the work force. But we have to articulate also the strategies about ways we can do this safely.”

Governor Evers is mute on opening the Wisconsin economy.

These policy choices will have an impact far more reaching than just this crisis. Business owners will remember who had their back during the crisis. Wisconsin’s economy has been lagging Texas’ for years. Once this is over, the disparity will widen as businesses continue to open and move to states that support business.


Texas Won’t Accept Refugees

In case you missed it Wisconsin is.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says the state will reject the resettlement of new refugees. Texas will become the first state known to do so under a recent Trump administration order.

In a letter released Friday, Abbott wrote that Texas “has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.” He added that Texas, which typically takes in thousands of refugees each year, has done “more than its share.”

“At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless-indeed, all Texans,” Abbott said, according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth.

Texas Amends Constitution to Ban Income Tax

Meanwhile, in Texas

Texas voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to the state’s constitution banning an income tax.

While Texas is already one of seven states that does not have an income tax, the amendment will make it extremely difficult to impose the tax in the future.

“Today’s passage of Prop 4 is a victory for taxpayers across the Lone Star State,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbot. “I am grateful to Rep. Jeff Leach for his bold leadership on this issue, and for the overwhelming majority of Texans who voted to ensure that our great state will always be free of a state income tax.

“This ban on such a disastrous tax will keep our economy prosperous, protect taxpayers, and ensure that Texas remains the best state to live, work, and raise a family,” Abbot continued.

Tell me again why this is impossible in Wisconsin?

Texas Senate Approves Gun Carrying for Week After Disaster


The Texas Senate on Sunday approved a bill that would allow any Texan who can legally own a firearm to be able to carry it either open or concealed for seven days after the state declares a natural disaster, The Dallas Morning News reported.


The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican, said earlier that he doesn’t “want someone to feel like they have to leave their firearms back in an unsecured home for a week or longer, and we all know how looting occurs in storms. Entire neighborhoods are empty and these people can just go shopping, and one of the things they’re looking for is firearms.”

Texas’ carry laws are actually a bit more restrictive than Wisconsin’s and a bit nonsensical, at times. Generally, open carry is not legal in Texas like it is in Wisconsin. Many years ago when Texas passed concealed carry, it was actually a big deal that a CHL holder would get in big trouble for “brandishing” if anyone saw their weapon. It was a goofy restriction that Texas lifted 2016. So now a Texan CHL holder can carry openly or concealed.

What this law would do is say that anyone who can legally own a gun – no felons, etc. – to transport that weapon, concealed or open, for a week after a natural disaster. The rationale is that it would enable people to protect their property and to legally transport their weapons away so that they don’t get stolen. The downside is that police won’t be able to easily tell who can legally carry a weapon or not, but they can’t do that today. The police would have to do what they do anyway… react to behavior instead of just randomly checking people.

Texas Governor Releases School Safety Plan

There’re a lot of good, common sense proposals in here. You can read the whole thing here (44 pages), but here are a few highlights.

Still, the plan won what is perhaps surprising praise from groups and politicians who are often Abbott’s adversaries. State Rep. Chris Turner, the Grand Prairie Democrat who chairs his party’s House caucus, said he and his colleagues “support many of the ideas that Gov. Abbott laid out today.” And Texas Gun Sense Vice President Ed Scruggs said the proposal represents the most movement he’s seen on gun violence issues in Texas in decades.

“We’re happy that the conversation has begun. We basically went 20 years without being able to have this discussion,” Scruggs said. “This type of leadership, even on just a few moderate issues, is important.”

Abbott’s announcement, made at the Dallas school district’s headquarters Wednesday, came one day after students at Santa Fe High School students returned to class for the first time following the deadly shootings.

At the heart of the governor’s proposal is “hardening” schools like Santa Fe as targets, both by guarding them with increased police presence and by persuading more school districts to join existing state programs for arming school staff. Abbott proposed several pages’ worth of revisions to Texas’ School Marshal Program, one of two such systems that combine to arm teachers in more than 170 of Texas’ 1,000-plus school districts.

Schools should not be required to join such programs, Abbott said, but he did propose that the state pay for training for it this summer to ease the burden on individual districts.


The governor also placed heavy emphasis on “preventing threats in advance,” largely through expanded mental health screening programs and on-campus counseling.

Abbott also proposed expanding a mental health screening program already operated through the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He said he hopes to “eventually” make that program — currently operational in 10 school districts — a statewide system, and said he recommends Texas fund it with $20 million.

The Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project, which aims to identify junior high and high school students at risk of committing school violence and intervene before tragedy occurs, has already had 25 students removed from school, 44 placed in alternative schools and 38 sent to a hospital. Abbott had praised that program just hours after the shooting, tweeting that “we want to use it across the state.”

Sheila Jackson Lee Plays the Race Card

One of the most vile people in Washington throws down the race card.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said she thinks the reaction of a passenger who accused United Airlines of giving away her first-class seatto the Democratic lawmaker was race-related.

Jackson Lee released a statement on Twitter after a woman claimed the airline gave away her seat to the congresswoman on her flight from Houston to Washington.

In the statement, posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Jackson Lee said that while she is “disappointed” to have to respond to the incident, she believes transparency is important.

Lee’s outrageous behavior has been chronicled for decades. But it’s okay… she’s a liberal.

Campus Carry One Year Later

Well, whodathunk? (Hint: me)

One year since campus carry was adopted at public universities in Texas, authorities in the state claim the law has not impacted campuses in any significant way.

“We have had no incidents since the law passed or since the law went into effect of criminal acts by license-to-carry holders,” Ed Reynolds, Chief of the University of North Texas Police Department, told the Denton Record-Chronicle.

“We have had cases that involved weapons on campus, but the individuals that were carrying were not license-to-carry holders,” Reynolds told the paper.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law — which allows concealed handguns in college classrooms, buildings and dorms — in 2015. But the law, which took effect in August 2016, allows each public university to create its own implementation process and policy.

At UNT, one of Texas’s largest universities, individuals are prohibited from carrying concealed handguns within several areas on campus, like places of religious worship or locations that hold events with at least 200 people, according to the newspaper. They are also banned from medical facilities and sporting events. The university requires that carriers have their license present at all times.

Reynolds told the paper he has heard “very little concerns or complaints” since the law took effect, and Texas Woman’s University Police Chief Samuel Garrison also said there has been no significant change on that campus.


School Vouchers Face Conservative Opposition in Texas

Here’s an interesting ideological and cultural split.

Texas is one of just seven states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and governorships that have stonewalled private school choice — and many others are small and rural, such as North Dakota and Wyoming.

Leaders of the school choice movement are stumped by the rebuff since Texas usually leads the nation in driving the conservative agenda. They have vowed to spend money and recruit primary challengers to defeat anti-school choice legislators.

“Texas is hailed to be this conservative, deep red state but you look across the country where we have school choice programs and it’s places like Indiana and Ohio and Wisconsin,” said Randan Steinhauser, co-founder of the pro-school choice group Texans for Education Opportunity. “It’s really frustrating.”

Steinhauser worked in Washington for Betsy DeVos, the outspoken school choice advocate who is now Trump’s education secretary. She thought she could advance the cause after returning to her native state four years ago: “I was kind of naive thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll get it done, no problem,'” Steinhauser said. “I was shocked.”

The issue lays bare the ideological split between a high-profile tier of conservative activists and more traditional Republicans seeking to safeguard heartland values.

Republicans from rural districts are worried about the dwindling of many small towns, and fearful of undermining public schools that are top employers and the social and cultural lifeblood of community life. On school choice votes, they join forces with Democrats supporting public teachers unions.

Another strong bastion against school vouchers in Texas is the large homeschooling community. Many of them are opposed to vouchers for fear of government imposing onerous requirements on homeschooling.

Texas is a Tossup

Well, I guess Trump’s supporters were right when they said that Trump would put normally solid states into play this year.

The political tracking site RealClearPolitics, which collects and averages polls in every state, declared Sunday that Texas is now a tossup in the presidential election.

Campus Carry in Texas

Today is the first day that it’s legal to carry a concealed weapon on college campuses in Texas. I expect the bloodshed to begin in…. never.

After months of meetings, protests and political debates, the time has come: It’s legal to carry handguns into university buildings in Texas. The state’s new campus carry law, passed in 2015, went into effect Monday

Texas Governor Recovering From Severe Burns

Tough dude.

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office found itself dealing with a traumatic and wholly unexpected situation.

The governor, who was on vacation with his family in Jackson Hole, Wyo., was on his way to St. John’s Hospital. He had been accidentally scalded with hot water and had extensive second- and third-degree burns on both legs below the knees and both feet.

Matt Hirsch, the governor’s communications director, began preparing a statement about the injury and how it might require the governor to curtail his schedule for the next couple of weeks, including, perhaps, skipping the Republican National Convention, which will get underway next Monday in Cleveland.

But as he was circulating a draft, the awful events began unfolding in Dallas.

Hirsch scrapped the statement.

“We didn’t want to distract from what was happening in Dallas,” he said. “We still don’t want to.”

A&M Improves Diversity Without Affirmative Action

This is interesting.

The Texas Tribunereports that Texas A&M University has seen a 114 percent increase in black and Hispanic student enrollment since 2003 — effectively more than doubling its minority student population — despite the fact that it refuses to employ affirmative action. In comparison, black and Hispanic enrollment has only grown by 45 percent over the same time period at UT Austin, which proudly uses affirmative action.

What’s Texas A&M’s secret? Campus officials told the Tribune it’s because they use the state’s controversial Top 10 Percent Rule:

Texas’ Top 10 Percent Rule … promises automatic admission into public Texas universities for students who rank near the top of their high school’s graduating class. The rule ignores the SAT and other factors, which on average benefit white and Asian students, and was meant to ensure that a certain number of students from the state’s poorer, lower-performing schools can also get into a top public college.

With the rule in place, then-President Robert Gates figured A&M could achieve more diversity without changing other admissions policies.

“Every student who is at A&M must know … that he or she and all students here have been admitted on personal merit,” Gates said at the time.

On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the 10 Percent Rule. Imagine that your kid is brilliant so you send him or her to the best high school you can. In a school of other exceptional kids, your kid is in the 11th percentile. He or she is still brighter that 99% of the kids at a lot of other schools, but since he or she is in the 11th percentile at this school, the 10 Percent Rule doesn’t apply. Meanwhile, a lot of slots at some of the better schools are being filled up by kids who are in the top 10% of crappy high schools. Many of those kids don’t graduate because they lack the skills, but they took a slot nonetheless.

I don’t think I would like to see a similar rule passed in Wisconsin, but the consequences – both negative and positive – are instructive.

Austin Locks Out Uber and Lyft

Hmmm… lefty politicians putting up high barriers to entry for new businesses in order to protect incumbent businesses who give them money. Shocking.

Today voters in Austin went to the polls to weigh in on Proposition 1, an attempt to overturn a bill requiring mandatory fingerprint-based criminal background checks for new Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

The results are in, and with 56 percent of total voters voting against Prop 1, the proposition failed to pass. This means that the bill requiring fingerprint-based background checks will proceed, with new drivers needing to pass the check before being able to drive.

In response to the news, Uber and Lyft have announced that they will be shutting down operations in the city — at least temporarily.

Campus Carry Coming in Texas

Good for A&M.

The Texas A&M University System proposed rules Wednesday that would allow students, employees and others with handgun licenses to carry concealed weapons into classrooms, residence halls and other facilities, with some exceptions, starting Aug. 1, when a contentious state law takes effect.

“No rule proposed by any Texas A&M System member prohibits a licensed holder from carrying a concealed handgun in classrooms or residential facilities owned and operated, or leased and operated, by the institution,” says a summary of the proposed rules put out by Texas A&M.

By contrast, the University of Texas at Austin — where the “open carry” law has provoked debate and protests — guns are being banned for the most part in on-campus residence halls, under rules proposed by UT President Gregory L. Fenves.

Dean Resigns Over Advancing Civil Rights

Shucks. He’ll be missed 

A dean at the University of Texas is stepping down over a new state law which will allow concealed handguns to be carried on university campuses.

Frederick Steiner said the policy was not “appropriate” for higher education and “did not make logical sense”.

Texas passed the legislation last year and it goes into effect in August.


But for Frederick Steiner, dean of the Texas School of Architecture, guns should not be allowed on university grounds.

“I grew up believing there was an appropriate place for guns and it was not in a place of higher education and higher learning,” he told Fox News.

“I thought I would be responsible for enforcing a law I don’t believe in,” said Mr Steiner, who has been at the school since 2001. He says he plans to return to the University of Pennsylvania, but not until the law is passed in August.

“Millions Die As Texas Allows Open Carry. Just Kidding. Nothing Happened.”

Perfect headline.

Blood flowed in the streets as people engaged in “wild west” shootouts just hours after Texans began exercising their rights to openly carry holstered handguns, just as gun control supporters claimed would happen.


Oh, wait… nothing happened. Just as it did in the 45 states that had open carry before Texas did.

It’s almost like gun control supporters whip up hysteria based upon lies.

Texas Officials Investigate Planned Parenthood

Bearing in mind that this entire story is built on the comments and positioning of the organization being investigated because officials can’t comment, can you imagine if this was going on in Wisconsin?

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Health investigators served subpoenas seeking hundreds of pages of patient and staff records at Planned Parenthood clinics across Texas on Thursday, as officials move to halt Medicaid funding to the organization that has been repeatedly targeted by the state’s top conservatives.

Planned Parenthood said investigators visited clinics in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, and a health center that does not provide abortions in Brownsville, on the Mexico border. They asked for patient health records and billing documents dating back to 2010, as well as personnel files that included the home addresses of staff members, Planned Parenthood said.


Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state health officials to investigate after anti-abortion activists released undercover videos they allege show Planned Parenthood officials talking about the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit. One of the videos was filmed at a Planned Parenthood in Houston. An investigation also is ongoing in Congress.

We can make some educated guess that officials in Texas are investigating whether Planned Parenthood, as an organization, systematically marketed and sold dead babies to the highest bidder as the videos indicate. If true, then Planned Parenthood’s activities are both morally reprehensible and illegal. Good for Texas for taking the alleged crimes seriously and investigating them for what they are – crimes. If the videos showed Koch Industries officials colluding to violate environmental laws to sell oil to the highest bidder, liberals would be protesting in the streets to have just this kind of investigation.


Texas Limits Disproportionate Influence of Austin


Finally, though, the Texas Legislature has put its boot down. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this month is signing laws that will draw power away from solidly Democratic Travis County and weaken its local jurisdiction over state business done inside its borders. Political corruption cases will now be steered to the hometowns of the accused and Travis County judges, who are all elected Democrats, can now no longer singlehandedly upend major legislation.